Crossing The Border To Somaliland: The Danger, The Process and Useful Tips

As some of you may know, I have traveled around Africa for 2 months and I decided to save the most challenging country for last: SOMALILAND! This is my 95th country! Woohoo! and after hearing all the horror stories about it, I was really nervous and excited at the very same time!After almost 24 hours of travel time from Comoros which included an overnight stay in Nairobi airport and a 5-hour layover in Ethiopia, I finally landed on Djibouti! My hosts, Gladsy and Romain, a lovely Filipina with a French partner picked me up from the airport and prepared a wonderful dinner for me with some friends ? I really had no plans in Djibouti other than to get my Somaliland Visa.Somaliland is an unrecognized state. This means that no country or international organization thinks that Somaliland is a real country. Instead, they include Somaliland as an Autonomous Region of Somalia, together with Puntland. Due to this, they have no direct access to humanitarian aid. The small aid that it receives goes through NGO’s who operate in the country. As such, they get a huge chunk of their income from taxes, especially on international remittances

HOW I GOT MY SOMALILAND VISA in DJIBOUTI?

Good thing my host’s apartment in Djibouti is close to the Somaliland Liason Office, (or that’s what the details in the web provide), so all we had to do is walk around and follow google map. Unfortunately, it wasn’t updated so we couldn’t find it. Some streets in Djibouti doesn’t have a name. It was even harder cos the people either speak French, Somali or Arabic, so it’s difficult to ask around.Good thing Gladsy met this Djiboutian guy named Osman while she was volunteering for Caritas in Djibouti. This guy is VERY NICE!!! He picked us up within 10 minutes after Gladsy gave him a call and asked for help.Osman speaks English, Somali, and French. (Aside from German and Spanish. WOW!! How cool is that!) So we had no trouble asking around. After driving around for a good 10 minutes and asking several people on the way, we finally found the Consulate Office of Somaliland. Armed with my Philippine passport, a pen, and a passport sized photo, I went inside the Consulate Office and met this lovely lady who assisted me in processing my visa. She was really friendly we took a lot of photos together. She even liked our facebook page haha! I actually thought it would be hard or impossible to get it. But I just filled out the form provided by the consulate, attached my photo, paid $31, and waited for the 24-hour processing time.So the next morning, we went back to the Consulate Office and I was able to get my visa! My heart was really pounding hard of excitement when I saw it!

CROSSING THE BORDER FROM DJIBOUTI TO SOMALILAND

I made some research on how to cross the border, one travel company offers 500$/day which includes a private car and a bodyguard. I find it very expensive so I tried to look for a public transport. With the help of Osman, we negotiated with a Somali guy who is the owner of the pickup truck going to Somaliland. I paid 12,000 Djiboutian Francs (roughly about 68$, I paid a little more so I can get the front seat) with no receipt, just pure trust! Initially, I was hesitant about it, but he felt bad that I didn’t trust him so I just let it go. I just crossed my finger hoping he wouldn’t try to get away with my money. Haha! Thank goodness I have Osman with me, otherwise, it is IMPOSSIBLE to find this terminal. There are no signs of it at all!!

I prepared myself physically and mentally for the journey. I’m used to crossing borders and I LOVE IT! This is my 3rd time crossing the border in my entire trip in Africa. But this one is different, I don’t know what to expect. I bought a lot of food, ice cold water, and borrowed clothes from the Filipinas because my luggage is still missing and I’m afraid we’ll get stranded! Osman drove me again to where we met the Somali guy and he was there waiting for me. That’s such a relief! Good thing he’s trustworthy!

The 13-hour journey started at 4:30 P.M. (that’s the only schedule they have). We rode on a pickup car with improvised seats at the back. It’s just a short 20-minute ride to go to the Somaliland border from Djibouti. I was with Somalis and Djiboutians in the car, one of them is Abde-Aziz, the only guy there who speaks English.

When we arrived at the border, I was interrogated for more than an hour at the Djibouti Immigration. They asked me soooo many questions and they wouldn’t let me out. I had to show them ALL my visas and prove them that I have traveled extensively before and I know what I’m doing. I actually thought that I wouldn’t make it to the border because they have declared recently that the border is only for Djiboutians and Somalis (maybe not true!). But lo and behold, after more than an hour of uncertainty, they finally let me out! (YEY!!!)The immigration office was already closed when they stamped my passport with the condition that I wouldn’t come back to that border because they will NOT let me in. And he wasn’t joking… HE WAS VERY FIRM.

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Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed are those of the author/authors and do not reflect the views of Somaliland Intellectuals Institute (SII) and/or its sponsors. SII reserves the right to edit articles before publication. If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to webmaster@somalilandintellectualsinstitute.org September 8, 2017